Julian Roman Pölsler | 103 mins | TV | 2.35:1 | Austria & Germany / German | 12
An unnamed woman (Martina Gedeck) goes to stay with some friends at their lodge in the Alps. The friends pop into town, leaving their dog behind with the woman. When she wakes up the next morning, they’ve not returned, and she finds an invisible wall surrounding the mountain. Exploring its boundaries, she sees people outside, paused mid-life, as if frozen. As hours turn into days turn into weeks, she begins to realise the need to fend for herself, farming the land and caring for her animals, which come to also include a cow and a cat. As weeks turn into years, she comes to accept her new life, from which it seems there may be no end…
…which is partly because the film has a frustrating lack of conclusions. I’m sure it was never meant to be about the mysteries, because it’s an Arty Foreign Film, not a Hollywood genre movie, but it feels like it cuts out just 10 or 20 minutes before reaching a proper ending. And whether it likes it or not, the mysteries remain. Maybe that‘s the point? If so, I’m not sure it’s a good one.
It’s adapted from an enduringly popular Austrian novel (which long predates works with a similar concept like Under the Dome and The Simpsons Movie — clearly, the ideas has legs), one of those many books labelled “unfilmable”. Unfortunately the solution seems to have been an over-reliance on voiceover narration, meaning at times it feels more like a prettily-illustrated audiobook than a proper film. I suppose when your main character is the sole human, there aren’t many alternatives — you have to be even artier and make it silent, or have them implausibly talk to themselves; though at least here she could talk to the dog. Meanwhile, something like All is Lost proves it’s possible to make an exciting, gripping film with a single character and no dialogue. At least there’s some beautiful photography to enjoy (the work of six cinematographers!), and the dog’s brilliant too.
The Wall starts out with a compelling mysterious premise, but seems to have no interest in exploring it or answering the many questions it raises. In some respects that’s better than the kinds of rote explanation offered by lesser films — you know, “Aliens did it. Why? Because.” — but it’s a bit like a joke without a punchline. Taking the setup as a mere excuse for an exploration of the human condition, I don’t know that it’s that illuminating. Either way, it makes for a sporadically interesting but ultimately unsatisfying experience.